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Interested in West Marches, but have concerns

Content of the article: "Interested in West Marches, but have concerns"

Hello fellow DMs,

I'm running a D&D 5e campaign currently following more of the traditional "saga" approach of running a campaign with an over-arching story. In the coming months/year, I'll generally have less time to prep and run sessions and was interested in trying out a West Marches campaign since it is more player driven and seems easier to improvise with the right tools.

My understanding of West Marches

  • "Episodic" sessions that should begin and end with the players in town or their safe haven
  • Adventures are driven by PCs – they determine when to play, who can join, and what their goals are
  • No adventures are to be had in town, all adventures take place in the "wilderness"

Concerns: Pacing

My current sessions run 2.5 – 3 hours in length and don't see this changing. However, it seems very daunting, if not impossible, to accomplish the following in each session in that time:

  1. Leave town towards destination
  2. Possible interesting random encounter(s) on destination to highlight world
  3. Reach destination and interact with world (explore / narrative / combat)
  4. Possible interesting random encounter(s) on return home
  5. Reach home
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Even when removing the random encounter equation, I'm concerned with getting 4-6 players to start and end an adventure before needing to return to town in 2.5 – 3 hours without rushing things. I won't pretend that my pacing is A+, but this seems really difficult to do. My PCs are generally on the ball in combat and larger combats can still take 1.5 – 2 hours to get through.

How do folks typically accomplish this?

Concerns: Balance

  • Resting: With PCs knowing the episodic format of returning to town at the end of each session, short-rest based classes seem like they would suffer tremendously here against long-rest based classes – especially as PC levels increased.
    • I would probably either employ the resting variant here (8 hours = short rest) or only allow short rests to be had in the wilderness, with long rests only being possible back in town. Still, this means each session would begin and end with everyone being 100% topped off.
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Love the concept of West Marches, but the episodic format of starting and ending in town seems to really limit the amount of narrative / explorative / combat encounters you can throw at your PCs before they return to town – I don't know how to satisfyingly pace or balance such an experience.

Source: reddit.com

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